Tuesday, January 26, 2010

It’s a Girl Thing

During hubby’s last long trip, two weeks in Asia, the girls and I headed up to my mother’s house for a break from all of our 24/7 togetherness that was getting to be too much for all of us. My sister also went up with her 9-month-old daughter. On the drive up, String Bean asked if her uncle would be there, and when I told her no, she said, “Oh, so it’s a girl thing.” I chuckled about that for the rest of the drive. One thing about super-effeminate String Bean, she appreciates girl things.

We’ve had three of these girls’ weekends at Mom’s house now, with Mom, her two girls, and three “grandgirls” as she calls them, and I have to say, I like the girl thing. Trips up to Mom’s house are a great way to get some extra help when hubby’s out of town for a couple of weeks, but when my sister and her daughter come, too, it’s more like a weekend-long party of girlness. We’re not sitting around painting toenails and doing each other’s hair: my sister is as makeup clueless and hair-product challenged as I am, but there are some feel-good movies watched and a lot of chocolate is consumed.

String Bean is a pretty good babysitter-in-training. She follows her cousin around, diverting her from danger, calling out updates to us every few minutes: “She’s near the stairs! She’s heading for the plant! She has a poopy diaper!” So that we can visit a bit and yet still keep a decent eye on the baby, who is now crawling and pulling up and getting into a whole new kind of trouble, especially at Mom’s un-baby-proofed house. String Bean understands which size objects are baby safe and which ones aren’t, and is pretty good at trading her little cousin small objects for larger ones. Peanut’s great at being silly and getting her cousin giggling. One of my favorite things about these girl weekends is watching the three girls playing and laughing together.

My other favorite thing is just hanging out with my sister, catching up and reminiscing and laughing about nothing at all. With three kids between us, we don’t get much quiet time to talk when we get together for an afternoon here and there, but over the course of a full weekend, we get lots of opportunities to talk and laugh. And this is in large part due, of course, to my mother’s tireless efforts in caring for her grandgirls. They are fed, dressed, bathed, fights are broken up, activities are planned, endless questions are answered, and instead of the constant “No, I want Mommy to do it!” that I always hear at home, I get to hear the beloved “No, I want Grandma to do it!” which is currently one of my favorite phrases in the English language.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Memory Girl and Spotter Girl

String Bean has become my memory lately. She finishes my sentences for me, recalls my shopping lists for me, and when I wander into a room only to find I can’t remember why I went there, she’s right behind me to say “You were going to feed the dog,” putting me back on track. She’s very proud of this skill and likes to call herself my “memory girl.” I think it’s fitting that she’s my memory now, since I had an excellent memory right up until the moment I gave birth to her, and it’s been slipping ever since.

The other day in the car she was reminding me what a great memory she has by remembering something for me (I honestly can’t recall what, I’ll have to ask her later), when Peanut tried pitching in and helping, by providing a list of nonsense words that just confused us all. String Bean pointed out that Peanut isn’t much help in the remembering department, but that she’s great at spotting things, like bugs no one else would see or planes so far away they’re practically invisible. This is a nice balance to her sister, because while String Bean can remember crazy things like what color shoes you were wearing when she met you two years ago, she can’t find her own shoes even when they’re sitting right next to her.

“I’m your memory girl, and she’s your spotter girl,” String Bean proudly proclaimed, and for the rest of the day, that’s what they were. They took turns showing off their impressive skills, with String Bean remembering things I hadn’t even forgotten yet (“don’t forget to feed us lunch!”) and Peanut spotting things that didn’t even exist (a bug that turned out to be a piece of lint, which she refused to believe no matter how many times I showed it to her). It devolved into a silly exercise of patience on my part, with having to acknowledge all of that remembering and spotting, even when I didn’t need it.

It’s remarkable how few things get truly lost in our chaotic house of too many things. Either String Bean vividly remembers watching someone kick it under the couch three months ago, or Peanut, at a glance, can spot it in the shadows between the couch and the wall. Overall, they’re handy things to have around: a memory girl and a spotter girl.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


A few days ago, moments after passing a fire truck on the way home from preschool, the girls announced to me that when they grow up, they are going to be fire-girls. As in, firemen, but girls. And that they’ll work together, on the same fire truck, because they’re going to be best friends forever. I told them they could just call themselves fire-fighters, rather than fire-girls, but they didn’t like that name. Something about the “fighting” aspect of it, the same word I use for the behavior which they are regularly scolded/given time outs for doing at home. So, fire-girls it is.

String Bean then gave me a lengthy explanation about how girls can do/be anything that boys can do/be, which made me pretty proud. Hubby and I try to instill this in them whenever possible, pointing out when we have a female piloting the plane we’re on, or when we saw women hang-gliding in San Diego, or that my doctor and her dentist are women.

I sometimes wonder what it is they’ll choose to do for a living when they’re grown up and realize that being a princess isn’t a paying career. An astrologer I saw before having kids predicted that I’d have two children, one boy and one girl, and one would be an architect and the other would be an actress. He was kind of right, except for the boy part. I could easily see String Bean as an actress, as she basically is one now, putting on mini-performances all day long, from puppet shows to Broadway-style song and dance numbers, and her flair for the dramatic is no joke. At three years old, it’s hard to see Peanut as anything other than a three-year-old bundle of energy and big smiles. Although I recently saw that same astrologer, and this time he told me my girls would be an actress and something to do with horses (he guessed breeding or showing them). The funny thing is, Peanut is obsessed with horses, and he, of course, didn’t know that. My grandmother and aunt were both prized Arabian horse breeders, so I guess it’s in her blood.

For now, they are fire-girls. Ready to ride on a big red truck, wearing big hats, and saving the world from the horrifying sounds that smoke detectors make. String Bean has a serious fear of smoke alarms ever since the one in her room went off (no fire, just a dusty space heater)—to the point where she has trouble sleeping in a room where she can see one. She seems aware that fire-girls would make these devices silent, which seems very important to her. Even at four years old, it’s good to have a life’s mission that would make the world a better, quieter place.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


I’ve been trying to come up with an accurate “terrible twos” type euphemism for the threes, which in my opinion are far worse than the twos, and I heard this from another mom. I think “threenager” is cute, and fitting. The threes, for both of my girls, were when the attitude kicked in.

I’m not sure how the terrible twos got such a bad rap. Maybe because it’s when the first tantrums start, and we’re all mildly horrified to see our sweet toddling little baby, who used to blow us raspberry kisses and giggle when we changed her diaper, turn into a red-faced beast who is completely out of control with emotion. But when your kid is two, they’re small, easily restrained or picked up to haul out of a grocery store, quickly distracted by shiny objects or food, and when they calm down, they come to you for comfort.

In my experience, the three-year-old tantrums are much more epic. When Peanut has a tantrum now, she doesn’t just want to huff and cry and blow off steam, she wants to harm me, her sister, herself. She bucks and thrashes and chases me around trying to bite me. She throws and kicks (aiming for your stomach or throat) and screams like some kind of wild animal in extreme pain. And she’s strong. Too strong for me to restrain without hurting her. She’s pretty inconsolable throughout the whole ordeal, so I just shut her in her room and wait her out until the animalistic screams turn to calls for mommy, and then I know we’re through the worst of it.

But my biggest complaint with the threes isn’t the tantrums, it’s the attitude. The threes, for both girls, were when the word “no” became the only word in their vocabulary. Peanut will say “no” to you before you’ve even finished offering her something. If I start a TV show for her, she immediately yells: “No, not that one!” before she’s even seen what’s coming on. Pick out an outfit, and she’ll shout “no!” from the hallway, where she can’t even see which outfit I’m holding. She also will get stuck on demanding the one thing she’s figured out we don’t have. Yesterday it was strawberries. We have 10 kinds of fruit in the house, all favorites of hers, but all she wanted was strawberries. The day before it was yogurt-covered raisins, which is only funny because she hates yogurt-covered raisins and spits them out every time (as she did when I finally got her to ask nicely for some, and gave them to her).

String Bean, who is finally coming down off the spectacular four-year-old attitude surge, will sometimes just put her hands on her skinny hips and shake her head at her sister, then look at me. “Was I like that when I was three?” she’ll ask. “Worse,” I tell her, which seems to amuse her greatly. Peanut’s got a stronger will than String Bean, so the stubborn part of the “threeenager” is more pronounced there, but Peanut’s got nothing on String Bean’s hyper-sensitive side. If String Bean had wanted strawberries when we were out, she wouldn’t just have asked for them ten thousand times in one day, she’d have been brought to tears by the disappointment.

So the sweet, mislabeled “terrible twos” are behind us, and soon I’ll be discovering what joys the fives bring with them. I’ll ride out the threenager issues as best I can, and try to keep a positive perspective, because I know that after the threes, come the fours, with haughty attitude paired with bizarre child-logic that runs you around in circles. I have a feeling Peanut’s really going to give me a run for my money in that phase.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Studio Grow

It can be hard, on these cold wintry mornings, to keep two restless, bored kids from causing each other bodily harm. Often, the best thing to do is just get them out of the house to burn off some energy and distract them from each other. Since I hate shopping, and my girls have no interest in food, things like eating out or heading to the mall just don’t do it for us. There aren’t many options when it isn’t nice enough weather for a park outing, but one great alternative near us is a place called Studio Grow: http://www.studiogrow.com.

It’s an indoor play space, geared toward the toddler thru five-year-old set, with just about every activity you can imagine. I just spent three hours there with the girls, and the only reason we left after three hours was because they were closing for the day. The girls could’ve gone on playing there forever. During those three hours, the girls danced, painted, made play-doh art, put on a puppet show, listened to story time, climbed on a jungle gym, rode these little cars down a coaster-like slide, played with dinosaurs, trains, blocks, and farm animals, read books, dressed up, played with dolls and prepared pretend food in their favorite “kitchen room,” experimented with gears, stamped, colored, glued, and a bunch of other activities that I was too busy socializing with the other moms to notice. Really, there’s no other place quite like it around here, where kids can be kids, busily and safely, and the messy arts and crafts aren’t in my house or on my carpet, where they can make new friends and so can I, and where I leave with two reluctant but very tired kids who actually nap (well, one napped anyway).

If you haven’t been, and you live in the Bay Area, it’s worth checking out. They have one in Berkeley and one in Concord, and both are owned by the nicest brothers-in-law you’ll ever meet. Your kids will thank you for it.

Friday, January 08, 2010


I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this before, but my girls talk a lot. A whole lot. They keep themselves awake during naps and at night with their own talking, they have a hard time hearing each other over their talking, and they don’t stop talking long enough to hear the answer to a question they’ve asked, which just results in a lot of raised voices and repeated answers.

The other night I was putting Peanut to bed, singing her the bedtime song of her choice (“Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”) and had to start the song over three times because she kept prattling on about her grandma, cousin, and silly uncle, and couldn’t hear the song over her own chatter. Halfway through the song each time, she’d cover my mouth and say, “Start over, I didn’t hear the song!” By the third round, I told her I wasn’t starting over any more, and if she wanted to hear it, she needed to close her mouth and open her ears. She tried to stop talking, covering her own mouth with her hand, but even that brief song was too long for her to keep quiet through.

When they aren’t talking, the girls are singing. They know the whole Disney princess anthology of songs, and songs from all of their favorite shows, and after exhausting that repertoire, they resort to making up their own songs: long, complicated show-tune-style numbers with dance moves and emotive facial expressions, full of silly lines like “I like you and the sun! Let’s look out the window and then have apples!” (where apples would raise to an operatic soprano, and be drawn out to about five syllables).

It’s not that they aren’t entertaining to listen to, or that I don’t appreciate their communication skills or creativity, it’s just that, sometimes, I’d like a few moments of quiet, absolute quiet, to just hear my own thoughts.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Happy 2010

It seems impossible that it is 2010 already. For one thing, that means that soon I will be the mother of a five-year-old girl, which just doesn’t feel possible, since she was just a newborn last week. On the one hand, I can’t really remember my life before String Bean came into it, as if she’s always been there, in one way or another, even before she was born. On the other hand, it means I’ve been a stay-at-home- (occasionally a work-from-home-) mom for five years, which is far too long considering the time passed in the blink of an eye. I guess that means I’ve kept so busy in the past five years that I never had time to sit still long enough to acknowledge the passage of time. In general, I think that’s a good thing, as I believe too much idle down time leads to bad habits, for most of us. But I also think that means it’s been at least five years since I’ve had several consecutive good nights of sleep, and I’m wistful for those days of feeling fully rested and ready to tackle whatever comes up.

There are lots of new things to come this year. Not only will String Bean turn five, and Peanut will turn four, but String Bean will start kindergarten next fall, and Peanut will enter her last year of preschool then. The girls will continue to grow and develop personalities and learn things that I can’t imagine my little baby already knowing how to do. I also plan to continue to grow as a person and learn new things. I’m just not sure what those things will be just yet. Mostly I plan to enjoy as many happy moments as I can with my girls, let go of the unhappy moments as quickly as possible, and hope to squeeze in a few nights of good sleep here and there.